When I heard about the auditions for The Vagina Monologues that would be produced in my neighborhood, I thought, “Oh how convenient!” Then I learned that a monologue in the play was about a Bosnian woman who was raped during the civil war. In my tiny actress mind, I thought I’m a great “cast” for the part. This was in 2010. I haven’t read the play nor seen it but I was already judging it by its title. Just like many others, I was thinking how irrelevant it is to be talking about our vaginas.
During the audition, there was a group of women, explaining that this was more than acting, this project was about raising awareness about violence against women and girls while raising money for organizations working to support women in need. Then they started talking about making cupcakes and selling raffle tickets… I was lost. I didn’t know how to make cupcakes! I still don’t, but now I know a thing or two about raising awareness and money for women’s issues.
I met Eve during my second year working with 4thU V-Day. By then, I had witnessed the strength of her work and the power of community theater. But still I was expecting to see a “star”, considering that she is a global heroine. On the contrary she was quite ordinary — a kind, direct and encouraging person and yes, of course, a global heroine. “What a smart woman!” I remember thinking.
Here I am, in my seventh year working as an “artivist” with 4thU Artivists (Formerly 4thU V-Day) of the Upper West Side of New York. I co-directed The Vagina Monologues for three years in a row and performed several parts as an actress. In 2015 I curated/directed a compilation of different female playwrights’ works titled Women’s Voices and in 2016 I wrote a new play for the company, Women of New York, premiered as our fundraiser. Along the years we raised close to $100.000 for various non-profits working to empower women and girls.
In 2015 interviewed Eve for Turkey’s Milliyet newspaper, (Click to read the interview in Turkish). Here I would like to share some of the inspiration from Eve’s vision that created V-Day and One Billion Rising, in her own words.
Ege – I am personally fascinated by the idea of doing something positive to create the change that you want to see, instead of solely complaining about things. I asked Eve what she thinks about the power of arts in creating social change. Here’s what she said;
Art allows us to get out of the duality that keeps us separated. Brings us to a whole new level of consciousness where we connect with our hearts in our spirits. Dancing allows women to release their trauma and claim public space. I think when we move our bodies it creates an energy that shifts consciousness. And I think drumming is so powerful, symbolizes the rhythm of revolution, it’s the heart beat of life; it connects us all.
Ege – Many people may think that violence is such an overwhelmingly big problem. “What difference would it make if I do something in my little world?” I wondered what would be Eve’s answer to those questions.
Any individual who does shift consciousness and stands up against oppression, changes the world. And I think we have to really believe that we are that powerful and what we do is that important. This capitalist bubble, this patriarchal structure that we are under makes us believe that we don’t matter, our beliefs and actions don’t matter but I actually think the opposite is true. When you do anything, whether it’s in your home, your village, church, synagogue, or in our place of work, it begins to shift consciousness. And we saw that. First year there were men who rose with us, the next year there were many men, this year there are a lot of men. That’s change. And I think it begins with one person, it begins with you.
Ege – V-Day’s spotlight campaigns for the last 17 years were all around the world; Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, New Orleans, Haiti… And Eve has been traveling the globe to coordinate and connect those communities of resistance, strength and hope. Based on her vast experience, I wondered if she was able to see a pattern that invites violence against women.
As long as patriarchy is the basis of human existence and consciousness, violence will always be used to sustain it. It’s the methodology that sustains patriarchy.
Violence has many faces, sometimes it’s physical, sometimes verbal and sometimes it’s behavioral and very subtle. We face it everywhere. In some cultures we get used to it which, I think leads to the worst consequences–raising the new generations who finds violence against women “normal”. I am devastated whenever I see a new product that prevents a woman from getting raped such as Undercover Colors, Anti-Molestation Jacket, Anti-Rape buckles and bras. We are living in an age that everything is a finger tap away but we still need to buckle up to prevent ourselves from being raped?! As much as I do not want to believe it, these are real life stories from all around the world.
Ege – So what do we do?
What we have to do is to keep reconstructing patriarchy. That means, giving boys and men a chance to re-perceive masculinity and manhood, women standing for their rights and speaking up the truth, breaking the silence, and all of us rising to say that there is another way of behaving on this earth which isn’t about domination and occupation and violation.
I believe there certainly is another way to share this world without trying to dominate, occupy or violate. To me this is not just feminism, this is about humanism.
* Special thanks to Eve Ensler, V-Day team, the team of 4thU V-Day, and Milliyet Newspaper.